Director Alison Bernhoft sat with clipboard on knee at a recent dress rehearsal, taking in the costumed characters on stage: pages, maids in ruffled caps, pantalooned gentry, a...
Director Alison Bernhoft sat with clipboard on knee at a recent dress rehearsal, taking in the costumed characters on stage: pages, maids in ruffled caps, pantalooned gentry, a mysterious hero in a cape, a tall jester with a funny hat and juggler’s scarf, a friar and several elegant ladies.
“Tim — it’s dramatic license. You can talk full volume, and she won’t hear you,” Bernhoft said to Tim Evans, 17, who plays Jarvis Lorry, an English banker in “A Tale of Two Cities.”
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Evans was among 17 kids ages 8 to 17 who were rehearsing ambitious stage fare: Walter Hackett’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel and “Twelfth Night for Thomas,” a play set in the Middle Ages. The cast members also sing seven traditional carols, and after rehearsing since September, they’re nearly letter-perfect.
Performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. today and 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Marysville Opera House. The small historic-registry building is a pocket Met with a proscenium stage and a plush maroon curtain. In use frequently for weddings and receptions, the opera house is now festooned with swags of greens and twinkling lights.
“It’s a little gem,” said Bernhoft, who has staged productions in the building twice a year for three years. “It’s really more than I could ever hope for. When I first started doing theater with the children, I thought back to my own childhood and remembered how I loved doing dramatic productions.”
Bernhoft’s childhood began in Great Britain.
“In England,” she said, “the period right after Christmas is a time of parties and pantomimes. The 12 days of Christmas start Christmas Day and end with Epiphany.”
When she lived in San Francisco, Bernhoft was surprised to see Christmas trees go out the door the day after the holiday.
As her family grew, “someone suggested that since the time leading up to Christmas is so hectic, people might be able to have more time to enjoy an entertainment after Christmas,” Bernhoft said. “It keeps the spirit of Christmas going a little longer.”
About a half-dozen home-schooling families are represented in the cast, and Bernhoft’s four children have been in 11 shows over six years. Most of the shows have been based on literature’s great stories.
“We did ‘Cyrano de Bergerac,’ and we did ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and ‘Oliver Twist,’ ” said Deirdre, her 14-year-old daughter. She will play Madame Defarge in “A Tale of Two Cities” and provide cello accompaniment during the medieval play.
“When I first started, I was 8. I was extremely shy,” she said. “It took a lot to get me on stage.”
Over the years, the youths have grown in confidence and voice projection.
“I always tell them, the people in the audience aren’t interested in you — they’re interested in your character,” Bernhoft said. “There’s no need to be self-conscious. You are your character.”
Deirdre was 12 when she played Cyrano. More recently the cast got a windfall, an influx of teen boys for the older male roles. The teens took on an additional challenge this year: They built sets, a first for the Entropy Theatre.
“The social aspect of it is another big motivator for me,” Bernhoft said. “It’s terrific to see them all working together, and there are really strong friendships being formed here.”
Eileen Herman has been bringing her two children, Michelle and Louie, to Everett from Seattle once a week for rehearsals for the past three years.
“The quality of the training has been a real blessing,” Herman said. “[Bernhoft] has high standards, and it shows.”
Bernhoft, who was the president of the Everett Youth Symphony board for two years, made sure that the arts were a big part of her family’s home-schooling in balance with academic excellence.
The name Entropy Theatre might seem unusual for the company, but Bernhoft said it’s a highly misjudged rule of thermodynamics.
“Entropy is a state where things tend toward a greater and greater state of disorder,” she said. “But without entropy, there would be no decay, no compost, and in one sense, it’s entropy that makes the world go round.”
For Bernhoft, coaching the youths in British accents and voice projection has been especially fun.
“It’s very rewarding trying to make all these Americans sound like English people,” she said, laughing. “Perhaps we didn’t lose the revolution after all.”
Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or firstname.lastname@example.org